Don’t go to Appleby expecting lots of fascinating, paid-for tourist attractions; go there to enjoy the laid-back, sedate feel of the place, to wander its streets, to stroll its riverside paths, to poke your head into its nooks and crannies…
Appleby, or Appleby-in-Westmorland to give it its full name, is located on the banks of the winding River Eden. It sits close to the base of the North Pennines’ steep, western escarpment, within easy driving distance of High Cup, one of the range’s most dramatic geological features. The main part of the town is dominated by a single, wide thoroughfare, Boroughgate, which rises steeply from the church of St Lawrence to the Norman castle perched on practically the highest point in Appleby. Flanked by lime trees and consisting of Jacobean, Georgian and Victorian architecture, Boroughgate is home to St Anne’s Hospital, built by Lady Anne Clifford for local women who were too ill to work, and the Moot Hall, dating from 1596 and now housing the Tourist Information Centre.
Much of Appleby Castle was rebuilt in the seventeenth century by Lady Anne Clifford, but the jewel in its hilltop crown – the impressive keep known as Caesar’s Tower – went up in the second half of the twelfth century. Visitors can join guided tours of the site, enjoy B&B stays in some of the historic bedrooms or book one of the cottages within the inner bailey. Not your typical holiday accommodation!
At the bottom of Boroughgate, St Lawrence’s Church is entered via a Gothic, cloistered arcade. Inside is a black marble monument to Lady Anne Clifford and a tomb chest topped by an alabaster effigy of her mother, one of her only allies during her constant campaigning to inherit her father’s estates.
Each summer, Appleby hosts a massive horse fair – a tradition that goes back about 300 years. Around 10,000 Travellers arrive to buy and sell horses and ponies, making it one of the largest gatherings of Gypsies and Travellers in the whole of Europe. The event also pulls in huge numbers of tourists who come to see the traditional, horse-drawn caravans, and to watch animals being ridden into the river for washing or being trotted at speed along ‘flashing lane’. Of course, if you’ve come to Appleby to enjoy the aforementioned “laid-back, sedate feel of the place”, the horse fair weekend is not the time to do it!
Appleby is on the Settle to Carlisle Railway and is close to the busy A66, which just bypasses it. Nearby attractions include Brough Castle, the gorgeous Lyvennet valley and its limestone uplands, High Cup, the heritage Eden Valley Railway at Warcop and Rutter Force. The latter, a waterfall on Hoff Beck, can be reached on foot or by bike from Appleby. If walking, it’s about seven miles there and back – along field paths tracks, riverside trails and quiet country lanes. Watch for wildlife beside the beck; there’s a chance of spotting kingfishers and red squirrels, among others.